From Axcess News
Groups rally against genetically enhanced salmon
By Elvia Malagon
(AXcess News) Washington – Royelen Boykie has already made up her mind about the possibility of eating genetically enhanced salmon.
“There’s no telling what happens with this type of thing,” said Boykie, a director of digital strategy of Food & Water Watch, who said she wouldn’t eat it.
Boykie who held a sign that read “Stop GE Salmon” joined about 35 members of advocacy groups to stage a rally Thursday in Lafayette Park in front of the White House to try to stop the possible approval of genetically enhanced salmon.
Food & Water Watch, the Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth organized the rally. Ben & Jerry’s supported the rally and renamed its “Phish Food” flavored ice cream (chocolate, marshmallows, caramel and chocolate fish) to “Something’s Fishy” for the day and handed out vouchers for free ice cream to passersby.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will have public meetings next week on AquAdvantage Salmon, a genetically enhanced Atlantic salmon that was engineered by AquaBounty Technologies.
The altered salmon has extra hormone genes from wild Chinook salmon. The result is an Atlantic salmon that grows twice as fast as regular salmon and is able to grow during the winter.
Activists are worried about environmental impacts the salmon might cause.
Eric Hoffman, biotechnology policy campaigner for
Friends of the Earth, said before the rally that the salmon could escape and cause damage to the wild population. Although the company says the salmon will be sterile, Hoffman said the sterilization works only 1 to 5 percent of the time.
The new breed of salmon eats five times more than other farmed salmon, which could put a strain on fish being harvested to feed salmon, he said.
“It’s just too risky,” Hoffman said.
AquaBounty Technologies, which has researched the product for about 10 years, insists there won’t be any environmental problems. John Buchanan, director of research and development, said the salmon will grow in FDA-approved facilities where it will be hard for them to escape. The eggs will grow in Canada and later grow indoors in Panama.
All of the salmon will be females. Buchanan said the fish are 99.5 sterile. That and the location of the fish means sterility shouldn’t be a concern, Buchanan said.
But Wenonah Hauter, executive director for Food & Water Watch, said the company hasn’t done enough research. She wants longer-term studies to prove the safety of the food and the environment that the salmon will affect.
“Let people really have a debate about if they really want to eat genetically enhanced food,” she said.
Hauter said that, although the company said the salmon will grow in Panama, the company might later decide to grow it in other countries where the salmon won’t be contained.
Eric Hallerman, a professor of fishery sciences at Virginia Tech, has researched genetically enhanced fish for more than 20 years. He said he doesn’t think there will be problems. He said the ecosystem in Panama is not suitable for salmon, which would not survive if any managed to escape.
After the FDA’s public meetings, it will deliberate and publish an environmental assessment before reaching a decision. According to its website, that could take five to 10 years.
If the FDA approves the genetically enhanced salmon, it would take a minimum of 18 months for the salmon to grow to market size.
Ben & Jerry’s CEO Jostein Solheim said he worries that if this product is approved it could lead to a wave of other genetically enhanced meats.
“We will launch onto a journey that we do not think we are ready for,” he said.
Source: Scripps Howard Foundation Wire